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CDB acting president, Isaac Solomon (centre) at the bank’s annual news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (CMC Photo)
CDB acting president, Isaac Solomon (centre) at the bank’s annual news conference on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (CMC Photo)
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By Peter Richards

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) – Senior officials of the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Tuesday refused to entertain questions regarding their president, Hyginus “Gene” Leon, who has been sent on administrative leave since January.

Speaking at the bank’s annual news conference, the acting president, Isaac Solomon, said “I can confirm there is an internal administrative process involving the president.

“The bank is extremely focused on preserving the independence, confidentiality and integrity of the process and as you can well appreciate in order for us to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of the process, we are unable to provide any other details at this time,” Solomon said.

But when asked by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) to state the nature of the “internal administrative process involving the president” given that implications for the regional financial institution and how soon he expected the investigation to be concluded and the possible role for the president in the implementation of projects outlined by the CDB speakers at the news conference, the head of communications at the bank, Camille Taylor, blocked the question.

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“I think we made it clear earlier, that at this point there won’t be any elaboration on the matter,” Taylor said.

Last month, leaders of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) had expressed their “utter disappointment and shock” at the treatment being meted out to the embattled CDB president, who is reported to have been sent on administrative leave until April this year.

The leaders of the sub-regional grouping met virtually to discuss the situation and an informed source later told CMC, “They (OECS leaders) had a meeting last night on that issue…and they expressed concern about it.

“They expressed concern at the treatment of the president. … they expressed grave concern as to the reputation of the bank and the treatment of the highest-ranking official.

“They expressed their utter disappointment and shock at the treatment of the president without even the knowledge of the governors,” the sources told CMC then, also confirming that  Leon’s computer and tablet had been seized.

Leon is the sixth president of the regional development finance institution. He was elected at a special meeting of the CDB Board of Governors held on January 19, 2021, for a five-year term, and assumed office on May 4, 2021.

CMC has been reliably informed that the Board of Governors met last Monday and that “some members expressed concern that no acting appointments were made.

“We did not appoint him, not sure who did,” said a source familiar with the meeting with regards to the acting appointment of Solomon.

Leon, the highly regarded St. Lucian-born economist heads a team of more than 200 employees headquartered in Bridgetown, and came to the assignment with 35 years of experience in economics, financial policy development, and executive management, more than 20 of which were spent working with the Washington-based International Monetary Fund.

He had succeeded the Jamaican-born Warren Smith who retired in 2021 after serving as president for 10 years.